A winter busting perfume 

The beauty equivalent of a hot toddy – Lizzie Ostrom finds a perfume to beat the miserable weather 

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By Lizzie Ostrom on

I was cleaning out my bedside cupboard – which I’m normally too terrified to open – in a January tidying mania the other day. Crouched at the back were some of those miraculous hand-warmer pouches that go hot and solid when you snap the metal disk inside. How they work is one of the great mysteries I hope to solve. The problem is, to reactivate them you’ve got to boil them like giant ravioli, which is a bit much.

But I’ve a lazier trick to stay warm, which is through perfume. Wear a suitable perfume and, as with a glug of brandy, you will experience the illusion of magma surging through the body. As with booze, it won’t actually warm you up. At least you’ll smell good as your eyelashes freeze. Choose your scent poorly, on the other hand, and it will be as if inhaling iron filings.

I experienced this to my detriment the other day, after a zealous application of DKNY Women. This I love (even more so because a 30ml bottle is under £15). With its high-pitched grapefruit suds and tomato-leaf opening, it’s almost as motivating as caffeine when I need to get stuff done. I thought that winter would be its moment to glisten with brilliance. Instead, it seemed to me that breath was shortening, my muscles seizing and my heart hardening. Akin to wearing Rimmel’s Heather Shimmer lipstick, which, in the 1990s, made many of us resemble exposure victims. DKNY Women is now back in the cupboard until its window opens in March. 

Wear a suitable perfume and, as with a glug of brandy, you will experience the illusion of magma surging through the body

What, therefore, should we look for in a “hot water bottle” perfume? Suitable scents are often spice-stuffed orientals, heavy with clove and cinnamon – the kind that were massive in the 1970s. Perhaps this is because these aromatics are included in Tiger Balm, along with menthol, which stimulates micro-circulation, while giving that addictive sensation in the sinuses of fire and ice. Give me a tube of Radian B and, if it weren’t so irritating, I’d lard it on my skin to boost its tantalising fragrance.  Then we are offered vanilla and the balsamic resins of benzoin and storax. Or, treacly opoponax. Scents with a skew towards these materials (think Shalimar by Guerlain) work like mobile duvets, cloaking us in warmth.

This, though, is a bit obvious as a direction. What I’ve been wearing loads lately and now prescribe — insofar as scent can be — is Le Parfum de Thérèse by Frederic Malle. I used to wear it a few years ago and overdid it but, this winter, it’s back. It’s back so hard I keep smelling my wrists, which is really slowing down the typing. 

Thérèse, originally created in the 1950s, is very natural and, by this I don’t mean that it’s free of synthetic ingredients, but that it smells unforced, spontaneous. This is its first victory point in relaxing the White Witch’s grip on Narnia. It’s also an unusual fragrance, with its triad of tangerine, melon and plum. If you went into M&S and saw that as a fruit-salad option, you’d probably choose the Mango Madness, instead. But what it means is that Thérèse is an unusual ferment – juicy, frothy, fizzy. Rather than helping you deal with cold weather through a soporific effect, it amps up the sun, seems to saturate wan colours, and stirs what’s hibernating. To me, Le Parfum de Thérèse is less hot water bottle, more like running around until you’re completely out of breath and don’t even notice the cold. 

Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse, £34 for 10ml or £120 for 50ml


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lizzie ostrom

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